Make good breeding decisions now to build a successful herd for the future

Published 2 April 09

Careful breeding decisions need to be made by dairy farmers to ensure their herds are successful, not just in the short-term, but for decades to come says DairyCo's director of breeding+ Marco Winters.

Good breeding can improve milk quality and impact profits.  Selective breeding, or 'genetic' improvement has been responsible for over half the 2500 litres of milk and associated fat and protein increases in average Holstein Friesian heifer yields over the past 20 years. 

"A good breeding decision can increase milk yields or reduce somatic cell counts," says Marco, "but many farmers don't realise what tools are available to select on traits such as improved lifespan or daughter fertility." 

 "Although these traits aren't usually inherited in the same way as milk production, it is certainly possible to breed for them," says Marco, "for example, by choosing the best fertility bulls rather than an average bull, farmers can reduce calving intervals by around five days in just one generation."

Current economic, consumer and legislative pressures on the dairy industry mean that genetic information for health and welfare traits is becoming increasingly important, which is why DairyCo's breeding+ breeding improvement programme ties together evaluations work, and sets out ways farmers can implement this on-farm to realise greater profits.  The breeding+ programme is a service funded by DairyCo with levy payers' money, making it totally independent.

To gain valuable insight into on-farm genetic levels, farmers can register with DairyCo for an individual herd report by emailing with their name, address and milk recording number.


Date 2 April 2009

For further information

N:        Helen Bond

T:         01285 646544

M :       07980 555369


Notes for Editors:

DairyCo is a division of the statutory levy board, the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB).

DairyCo's current focus is on improving the profitability of dairy farming by focusing on four specific areas:

  • Provision of high quality market information to help farmers and their representatives make the most of dairy markets and opportunities.
  • Helping dairy farmers increase their profits while meeting regulatory and environmental requirements - through the provision of world class research programmes and practical on-farm tools and services
  • Helping promote the positive perception of dairy farming with the general public.
  • The development of DairyCo activities towards a self-sustaining model.

DairyCo is funded entirely by milk producers, via a statutory levy on all milk sold off-farm, at the rate of 0.06p per litre.  This provides an annual income of around £6.5m.